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5 Characteristics of an Entrepreneur (and 3 That Will Sabotage You)

Successful business owners have these traits in common

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Entrepreneurs aren’t like everyone else. We are people who are driven, from the depths of our soul, to choose the road less travelled. Our society is firmly steeped in a tradition of encouraging people to go to college and then live paycheck to paycheck while working for a corporation for the next 40+ years. That’s the path most people choose, because it’s traditional. It’s what their parents did. It’s safe.

Except we know that it’s not actually safe. For starters, higher education is a scam. You don’t learn how to be financially smart in school. They don’t teach you how money works; they simply teach you how to be a “good employee” so that you spend the next four decades following the other sheep into a thankless retirement. Getting a job is another scam—there’s absolutely no financial security in working for someone else because you aren’t in control. You’re constantly at the mercy of someone else who can fire you, demote you, downsize you, or put you in roles you don’t even like.

Characteristics of entrepreneurship

So if you’re thinking about bucking this system and living the life of an entrepreneur, congratulations! There are so many rewarding aspects to working for yourself, on your terms. It’s also quite scary to leave your comfort zone and make the leap.

The question is: Do you have what it takes? After spending decades working with countless business moguls and investors, I’ve come to identify certain characteristics of entrepreneurship that most often lead to success. Let’s see how you measure up:

  1. Bravery. When you announce you’re quitting your job to start your own business, people will think you’re crazy and judge you—partly because they do not understand your motives and, let’s face it, partly because they are jealous you’re making your daydream a reality. You’ll need to have the courage to go your own way, even when everyone around you thinks differently or voices their objections. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely road, because your challenges and successes are unique and many people simply cannot relate.

  2. Fortitude. Every entrepreneur must have the fortitude to continue moving forward even in the face of failure. Otherwise, you’ll quit at the first sign of trouble or the first embarrassing mistake. Those who demonstrate strength of character always get stronger in the face of failure. How? By learning from the mistake and making modifications for the next opportunity. Remember: It’s OK to fail.

  3. Integrity. An entrepreneur must honor their commitments, act with integrity, and be honest at all times. If not for alignment to your personal moral compass, then do it for the public image: In this age of social media, consider everything you say and do to be “public record”— anything can go viral in a matter of minutes. If you operate your business with integrity, you will earn the respect of colleagues and your customers, and won’t have to worry about a scandal.

  4. Self-motivation. When you’re out on your own, nobody is going to give you a mid-year review to let you know how you’re doing or put together a plan for the next quarter. Nobody is watching you punch in and out, counting your sick days or micro-managing your tasks. That’s right: You’re accountable for yourself. If you’re self-motivated, then that becomes much easier—you stay focused on what needs to get done and you don’t allow the lack of structure to negatively impact you. If you have trouble staying motivated, and we all struggle from time to time, remember why your why is so important.

  5. Passion. If you don’t love what you’re doing, why are you doing it? As an entrepreneur, you should be passionate about your business — after all, you specifically chose it and built it. Plus, passion is downright contagious — it’s how you get others to buy into your vision, how you sell your product/service, how you connect with your customers, and how you get others to invest in your ideas.

3 self-sabotaging behaviors

So those are the five characterizes of entrepreneurship that will help you success in business. But what about the flip side? What about the behaviors that are holding you back?

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about what new habits and fresh perspectives you’d like to create for 2021. What are some things you could start doing (or stop doing) that are creating obstacles to your success?

For many, it begins in their own head. So I’d like to challenge you to stopping this one behavior in 2021:

Stop sabotaging yourself with your own thoughts and actions!

All too often, we place limitations on ourselves that prevent us from living out our dreams. Whether your dream is financial freedom, jumping out of an airplane, losing weight, or expanding your social circle, we sometimes get in our own way — and often, without even realizing it.

Here are a few ways we do that:

  1. Staying in our comfort zone. Our critical inner voice likes to keep us in a nice, safe box. Our brains view this as self-preservation, because it wants to protect us from feeling vulnerable, making a mistake, being judged or being disappointed. That critical inner voice may say, “you aren’t worthy” or “that’s too much work,” or “what if you fail?” You’re may be so programmed to listen to that voice that you’ve even started to believe it.

  2. Believing a negative self-image. Whether this is leftover from a tough childhood, a painful divorce, a harsh boss or self-inflicted, your inner critic is so familiar to you that you don’t even stop to challenge it. We get stuck in patterns and then base our whole lives around those parameters because that’s what we are used to. The defenses we put up to protect us only limit our lives and our potential.

  3. Letting fear rule us. In almost everything you do in life, you either act out of fear (ego) or love. Fear is the energy that causes us to shut down, hide and silently suffer. Love is the energy that pushes, heals and allows us to open up. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of judgment often holds us back. But if you don't fight through that very same fear then you’ll never know what exists on the other side of it. You’ll never know what you are capable of.

The self-sabotage test

Now, do any of these classic self-sabotage situations sound familiar? If so, I’d like for you to humor me and take a few moments to do this quick exercise in creativity and overcoming assumptions:

Step 1: Divide a piece of paper into three columns.

Step 2: In the first column, brainstorm a list of all the things you’d do, if only they were possible.

Step 3: Then in the second column, next to each “want,” write the obstacle that makes it “impossible.”

Step 4: Then in the third column, brainstorm a list of ways to get around these obstacles. As you’re doing this, remember: You don’t have to limit your solutions to things you can do personally — think of ways to leverage the abilities of others!

Step 5: Now, look at your list. What did you come up with? Do some of these situations now seem less “impossible?”

Strength of character matters

I’m here to tell you that we are more resilient than we think. Don’t let your own fear, negative self-criticism or comfort zone keep you down. Sure, you may try something new and fail. But I firmly believe we will never regret the things we’ve done, only the things we never tried.

And now that you’re more aware of this phenomenon, keep your ears open to instances when other people say things like, “If only I could…”, or “That’s impossible…”, or “I can’t because…”. When you hear these sorts of comments, ask yourself, “What could solve this person’s problems? How could a business be built around solving this problem for people?”

You may discover a great business idea or opportunity that you can leverage into wealth. At the very least, it will get your mind in the habit of thinking like an entrepreneur.

When all is said and done, it’s not about how big your house is or how many fancy cars are parked in the garage. When you strip away all those items, all you have left is your strength of character — it’s what sets you apart from everyone else. Stay true to yourself and your journey toward financial freedom will be within reach.

Original publish date: July 26, 2018

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